Sinn Fein agreed Stormont base as ‘olive branch’ for unionists, says Adams

Sinn Fein agreed that the Parliament Buildings in Stormont should house the Northern Ireland Assembly established in 1998 as an “olive branch” for unionists, Gerry Adams said.

The former Sinn Fein president said the possibility of setting up the Assembly elsewhere was considered, but added that his party decided to go to a place where unionists felt comfortable.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement largely put an end to the unrest and established the institutions of power-sharing at Stormont, a location previously perceived by many nationalists as a symbol of unionist domination.

Mr Adams told the PA news agency: “We came to the conclusion (in 1998) that the lack of internal settlement and the intertwined nature of the all-Ireland bodies and the cross-border bodies and the Northern Assembly and all the other architecture, that we could live with that.

“The possibility of the new Assembly meeting in another place was considered.

“And I remember Martin McGuinness and I were traveling down that road late one night, and we discussed that we were going to end up there.

“And then when we got to discuss it more formally, it was a conscious decision on our part to go to a place where unionists felt comfortable.

“It was a conscious decision that we needed a place to moderate our differences.

“Clearly there had to be changes in the symbolism and that process has begun.

“But it was a very conscious olive branch on our part for political unionism.”

He said: “The famous Martin McGuinness ended up as First and Deputy Prime Minister with Ian Paisley, and Michelle O’Neill is now Prime Minister-designate.”

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he did not consider he had put himself at greater personal risk after signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 (Liam McBurney/PA)

The former Sinn Fein leader also said he did not feel he had put himself at further personal risk by leading Sinn Fein to sign the 1998 peace deal.

He said: “In terms of the risk issue and everything else, I try hard not to sound nonchalant, but it was no more and no less than an occupational hazard.

“I didn’t feel more threatened than I was under threat. I had already been shot at, informed that I was the target of several failed or aborted attacks.

“It didn’t come into the equation, you were doing the best you could, that’s the life you lived and you were taking a chance, but you just kept going.”


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